When it comes to communication, especially with our spouse, every person brings their own temperament and life experiences to the relationship. It is those differences that can, at times, make communication more difficult. It is easily understood when you consider the culture one person comes from compared to another.
Cultural differences significantly shape our communication patterns. As an example In Western cultures, direct eye contact during conversation is often seen as a sign of honesty and attentiveness. In contrast, many Eastern cultures view prolonged eye contact as disrespectful and a display of humility. These nuances illustrate how diverse cultural backgrounds can affect our interactions.
This can also be true of the home culture one of the partners grew up in. If one parent grew up in a home where sarcasm was a way of communicating, they may not see it as a form of anger and passive aggression. Suppose another person grew up in a home where emotions and feelings were protected by not showing or speaking of them. In that case, you can see how resolving differences or even agreeing on ways to raise a child could be at risk.
If you receive our weekly newsletter, we discussed four communication styles and how they show themselves in detail. Of course, each of us is responsible for our own way of communicating and not so much for how others communicate. However, we may need to address unhealthy communication styles in our partner or spouse to build a healthy relationship.
Before we discuss some steps for addressing those styles of others, here is a review of four communication styles.
- Passive: Passive communication includes poor eye contact or soft speech. It may also include not expressing an opinion, even when asked, or pretending not to care. Often, passive communication is used when one person does not want to rock the boat.
- Aggressive: Aggressive communication destroys relationships because it aims to hurt or damage the other person. It may look like threatening, name-calling, bullying, or teasing. Aggressive communication leaves no room for others to express their needs or opinions.
- Passive Aggressive: Passive aggressive communication can be seen in procrastination, carrying out chores incorrectly, or getting hidden revenge. It might be displayed by saying, “You are right,” when it is not meant or using sarcasm and teasing to disguise their anger.
- Assertive: An assertive communication style empowers you to express your needs and opinions clearly and respectfully. It is direct, calm, and respectful and is most likely to nurture healthy relationships.
Now that we have defined four communication styles, the question we are addressing is: what if our partner or spouse uses these forms of communication? Can we handle this and maintain assertive (calm and respectful) communication with them?
Now for the steps you can take:
- Self-Reflection: Start by examining your own communication style. Ensure that you are not inadvertently contributing to the issue. Self-awareness is the first step towards resolving communication problems.
- Open and Honest Communication: Initiate a calm, non-confrontational conversation with your partner. Express your concerns about the communication style you’ve observed. Use “I” statements to describe your feelings and experiences rather than accusing or blaming your partner. For example, say, “I feel hurt when…” instead of “You always…”
- Active Listening: Encourage your partner to share their perspective. Active listening means giving them your full attention, empathizing with their feelings, and seeking to understand their point of view without interrupting or passing judgment.
- Empathy: Try to understand the reasons behind your partner’s communication style. Sometimes, it may be rooted in past experiences or personal challenges. Empathize with their feelings and struggles.
- Set Boundaries: Clearly define your boundaries regarding acceptable and unacceptable communication within your relationship. Ensure your partner understands these boundaries and agrees to respect them.
- Seek Professional Help: Consider couples therapy or counseling if communication issues persist or escalate. A trained therapist can provide a neutral and supportive environment for both of you to address and resolve the issues.
- Practice Assertiveness: Encourage assertive communication within your relationship. Share resources or articles about assertiveness and its benefits, and discuss how you can incorporate assertive communication techniques into your interactions.
- Model Healthy Communication: Lead by example and demonstrate healthy communication styles. Show your partner how effective communication can resolve conflicts and improve the overall quality of your relationship.
- Reinforce Positive Changes: Whenever your partner tries to improve their communication style, acknowledge and appreciate their progress. Positive reinforcement can motivate continued growth and change.
- Evaluate Progress: Regularly assess your communication dynamics. Are you both making progress in adopting more appropriate communication styles? Be patient and understanding, as change takes time.
Remember, addressing communication issues in a relationship requires patience, empathy, and a mutual commitment to improvement. It’s an ongoing process, but with effort and understanding, you can work together to build healthier and more harmonious communication patterns.
I invite you to sign up for our newsletter. It is a great way to get the Virtue of the Month and tips on relationships, parenting, and self-care. In addition, you’ll be the first to know about upcoming classes for successful families.
To sign up, visit the “Newsletter” section here on the website. Enter your email address, and you’ll receive our newsletter in your inbox on Wednesdays. I appreciate your interest in bringing out the best in your children and yourself. We look forward to keeping you informed through our newsletter!